Most breeds of horses racing in North America are required to have a lip tattoo for identification purposes prior to their first race. This tattoo is inside the upper lip and is linked to the registration papers to identify the horse and owner. The identifying lip tattoo was started in 1947 by the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau and was shown to be so effective that now most states require a tattoo on any horse who will be racing.
Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds and Quarter Horses are typically tattooed for racing purposes, however, there are those who utilize the tattoo registration having no intent of racing. Most Appaloosas are tattooed whether they race or not. Arabians are also tattooed with the last six digits of the horse’s registration certificate number.
Why are horses tattooed?
Tattoos are an additional means of identification of a race horse. They are used along with the horse’s markings, color, age and sex. The horse identifier at the racetrack verifies that each horse entered in a race matches this information as recorded on its official registration certificate. The tattoo is meant to be a guard against connections entering one horse (a ringer) in place of another. Not only is the number checked during the morning vet exam, it will be confirmed once again when the horse enters the paddock or saddling enclosure for that afternoon’s race. Ringers almost never happen these days. The tattoos are also useful for identifying stolen horses, and even obtaining history on a retired racehorse you may adopt.
Is it possible to register a horse tattoo with EQR?
Yes, it certainly is possible to register a horse tattoo with EQR, however, there are limitations of not having an exterior visual brand, which may lessen the opportunity for a “non-horse person” to identify your horse in the event of loss, theft or disaster. The majority of law enforcement professionals and volunteers may not be comfortable lifting a horses lip, or may not know to look there for identifying marks.